Under it's original English-language title, The Banquet, Feng Xiaogang's loose, Chinese-language adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet played various film festivals (Venice, Toronto, AFI Fest, Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle, New York Asian) and garnered a fair amount of praise. Featuring many stately speeches, beautiful costumes, and stars Ziyi Zhang and Daniel Wu, The Banquet struck me as too inert for its own good, but I respected what the filmmakers accomplished.

The Banquet is a classy and distinguished moniker, somewhat anonymous, but reflective of the affairs of state depicted therein. The film's home video rights were finally sold to DVD distributor Dragon Dynasty. In their infinite wisdom, they decided to rename it as -- drum roll, please -- The Legend of the Black Scorpion. In the words of more than one message board commenter across the globe: "What the f***?"

This title is just as anonymous as the original but bespeaks a poverty of imagination, as though every Asian movie set in the past needs to be prefixed with "Legend." Dragon Dynasty's parent, The Weinstein Co., has done this for years, in fact, starting off by changing Drunken Master II (starring Jackie Chan) to The Legend of Drunken Master, and then retitling Fong Sai Yuk and Fong Sai Yuk 2 (both starring Jet Li) to the more English-friendly The Legend and The Legend 2, and changing Swordsman II (also with Jet Li) to The Legend of the Swordsman.
Even the Jet Li film whose original English-language title included "Legend" had to be changed (from The New Legend of Shaolin to Legend of the Red Dragon). Many other titles have been changed, all evidently in the interests of appealing to the broadest common (American and English-speaking) denominator. Some of these changes I can understand, whereas others are simply infuriating. In general, renaming a film that's been released and seen under a different title means you don't care about the audience that sought it out in the first place; instead, you want a new, broader audience that's never heard -- and doesn't care -- about the old title.

Bah! This is old news, and I'm not sure why this irritates me so much -- maybe because this is a slow release week. Whatever you want to call the film, it's a talky drama, not a dazzling action flick, and emphasizing the action is only going to disappoint the punters who pick it up looking for an adrenalin fix. The two-disk DVD no doubt has several extra features, though they're not listed at the Dragon Dynasty web site.